Glass products still in short supply as industry tries to bounce back from pandemic

Making a small glass humming bird takes a matter of minutes for Kevin McKay, a glass artist with decades of experience and the owner of Bayshore Gifts & Glass.

Getting the materials to make coloured glass ornaments, however, can take a lot longer.

“I ordered one colour in December and it usually comes within two weeks,” said McKay, “I’m still waiting.”

Taking proactive measures, like ordering materials in bulk, has kept McKay from losing any business since certain colours of glass have been in short supply over the last six months.

McKay orders his coloured glass from the United States or overseas – as almost all coloured glass is imported into Canada – meaning shipping delays can cause product shortages.

“It’s always on the boat,” said McKay on what he’s heard from glass suppliers. “Where the boat is? We don’t know.”

Shortages on certain types of glass, particularly coloured variants, are impacting the residential and commercial sectors, too.

“You may not have the colour selection that you might want,” said David Pike, co-owner of European Art Glass.

“That’s part of the supply shortages,” he said, adding that items needed to install glass, like certain fixtures, are also in short supply, which can cause delays for customers.

Access to the raw materials needed to manufacture glass products is the main problem, says Martia Kania, vice-president of AGM Glass Fabricators Inc., which produces glass products for the residential and commercial sectors.

“There are no glass factories… glass producers in Canada. There used to be but they no longer exist” Kania said.

“So everything we buy has to be purchased in the U.S.,” he said, adding that ongoing supply chain disruptions are the main cause for a shortage of glass products.

Wait times for products have improved, says Kania, especially as shipments-via-truck coming from the border have become more regular.

But, as the price of raw materials needed to produce glass and shipping costs increase, so does the price of glass.

“We had to pass on those increases to our customers, which they, in turn, passed them on to theirs,” he said. “I don’t see that stopping for the next two to three years.”

Automotive glass products have been less affected, Kania says, since they tend to be produced (and shipped) in bulk.

At Inland Glass Inc., a glass repair service company based in Winnipeg, owner Peter Suszczynski says major delays for windshield repairs are more the exception than the rule.

“We have had a few delays where we waited three to five weeks, which normally would be a week or two,” he said, “But that’s the longest delay we’ve had.”

A more pressing issue for Suszczynski that could create delays for some customers is a shortage of experienced workers.

“Sometimes we like to be a little quicker with our estimating, quoting,” he said, “But staff shortages, it delays the whole procedure.” 

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